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Nukadoko Progress Report: Green Eggplant Meets Pickle Pot

Green Eggplant Meet Pickle Pot.
Photo of green eggplant on wooden cutting board.

After The Return of the Pickle Pot, pickling resumed as usual. It was good to be home again, my hands at work in the kitchen and at my desk. There is nothing so refreshing and orienting for me as these kinds of tasks, and invariably they are what I gravitate to if I need to recenter or settle my mind. However, since I'd left nearly twenty days prior, something had changed: the weather.

Autumn was in the air. Temperatures were still rather warm (70° to 80° F/21° to 26° C), but they began dipping into the 50°F (10°C) range at night. Days were getting blessedly shorter. The Pickle Pot slowed down. A nearly 24-hour pickled cucumber came out greener, firmer, and crunchier than it did when Summer was a capital 'S' presence. (FYI, I still pickle the occasional cucumber so I can gauge how the pot changes.) Sweat still appeared on the inside of the lid, and I found some standing liquid now and again and simply blotted it up with a paper towel. 

"Eggplants make great nukazuke," said my landlord neighbor one day as he handed me two large green eggplants. I'd never seen this particular variety before, but its green variegations were stunning. "They are really good nukazuke," he repeated as I stood on the stoop admiring them. I took the hint.

I followed the directions for eggplant in Kansha (cut in half and salt rubbed) and plunged them in around midday at 63°F (17°C) with 79% humidity and overcast. I did not have any alum on hand, however, and no time to run to the store to look for it. Alum, a classic ingredient in homemade dill pickle recipes, combines with natural pectins to keep vegetables firm and maintain the crunch. I assumed I would just have a slightly soggier pickle, which was not a deal-breaker in my book.

That evening when I took the eggplant out, it didn't seem to have changed much. The flavor was tangy, but the texture was still relatively firm. I delivered half to the landlord, and we worked on the other half over the course of the next day. Like the carrot, I was not terribly impressed with the flavor. However, there might be a couple of reasons for this.

  • This variety of eggplant had particularly thick skin. While Japanese eggplants don't have paper-thin skin, it is easily pierced. It took some effort to break through the skin of these green ones. I suspect that the Pickle Pot struggled to get through that skin to work its magic.
  • The flavor of the pot was pretty sour. It had been sour when I left and before it went to stay with my friend; however, she had worked some Pickle Pot Magic that balanced out the flavors some. Now, though, it was getting tangier by the day. Perhaps something else was going on.

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